All-in-one PCs make a speedy comeback

Box scores

Plug a monitor into the Cybernet Elite-4 Zero-Footprint-PCkeyboard and you will be all set to compute.

Henrik G. de Gyor

The ClientPro All-in-One from MPC looks like a 17-inch LCD in front but has computer components in back that make it about 8 inches thick.

Henrick G, de Gyor

In new models, makers address earlier disadvantages

A few years back, every PC maker was working on an all-in-one prototype, and the GCN Lab got to test many of them. Despite the space savings, however, all-in-ones never caught on in the marketplace.

The reason was speed. All-in-ones sacrificed too much processor and cooling fan room to achieve smallness, so they couldn't serve as workhorses. Plus, they tended to cost more than standard desktop systems.

Now, several processor generations later, all-in-ones are making a comeback. The Pentium 4 and Intel Centrino chips still show some performance hits, particularly in disk access, but they have enough raw processing oomph.

The GCN Lab took a look at two very different all-in-one designs. One put all the major components inside an LCD; the other placed them inside a keyboard.

The 17.1-pound ClientPro All-in-One PC from MPC Computers LLC looks like an ordinary 17-inch LCD monitor, at least from the front. The computer parts are hidden in back of the MPC ClientPro. The system measures 17.3 inches tall and 8 inches thick'compact indeed.

As configured for our tests with a 2.8-GHz processor and 512M of RAM, the ClientPro scored an impressive 6,870 on the lab's benchmark suite from Alterion Corp. of Conshohocken, Pa.

In comparison, a baseline 1-GHz Celeron desktop system scored about 3,000.
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MPC has built in four Universal Serial Bus 2.0 ports and one USB 1.1 port for peripherals. In addition to the DVD/CD-rewritable drive, there is also a floppy drive. The ATI Mobility Radeon 9600 graphics card has 64M of RAM.

Disguised as a keyboard

With its Elite-4 Zero-Footprint-PC 4033, Cybernet Manufacturing Inc. took a different tack, placing all the hardware inside a 2.75-inch-thick keyboard that looks a bit like an old-fashioned dumb terminal device. It is fairly light at 7.4 pounds.

Our test unit came with a 2.4-GHz processor, 256M of RAM and a CD-ROM drive. A 15-inch LCD plugs into the keyboard like a standard monitor.

The Cybernet unit fared about half as well as the ClientPro on our benchmarks, earning a respectable 3,823, which was better than our baseline system's score.

The Zero-Footprint-PC costs about $800 less than the ClientPro and also has lower performance. Both systems performed well enough, however. If you need a powerful system in a tiny space, the MPC unit would be worth the extra money.

If you need a bunch of lower-end PCs for users, the keyboard system would make a good choice, but be sure to warn your users not to drop it.

Keyboards tend to collect spilled crumbs or coffee, or simply wear out in heavy use. Cybernet sells a plastic keyboard cover; keeping in mind the many accidents that keyboards can suffer, the company also can reinsert undamaged computer components into a new keyboard for $30.

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